An amendment that would have exempted from Brentwood's blanket smoking ban failed by a 4-3 vote in front of a crowd of legion members on Monday night. Five votes were required for passage.
Before the vote, Third Ward Alderman Andrew Leahy—the bill's sponsor—asked the board to approve the exemption.
“I'm asking the board to allow the owners of the premises—and the group itself—to do what is right for their own members,” Leahy said. He said he didn't think the city should “impose penalties” on the service organization.
Second Ward Alderman Lee Wynn, who isn’t a smoker, said he supported the exemption.
“I feel this is the right thing for our veterans,” he said. “It’s just my heart."
Fourth Ward Alderwoman Lorraine Krewson voted against the exemption because it was personal. Her brother, father and ex-husband all died to lung cancer, she said, and she couldn't justify allowing smoking.
First Ward Alderwoman Barb Clements—who talked with legion members at a Public Safety Committee last month—also voted against the exemption. She said the post should establish a smoking area outside.
No other aldermen voiced an opinion at the meeting. First Ward Alderman Anthony Harper and Third Ward Alderman Keith Robertson voted in favor of the exemption and Fourth Ward Alderman Tom Kramer voted against it. Second Ward Alderman Mike Marshall was absent for medical reasons.
A group of legion members quickly left the meeting, some mumbling concerns as they exited the chambers.
Leo Lang, the first vice commander of the post, was visibly frustrated following the vote.
"Why they were determined to disband the post, I don't know," Lang said. "We're out of business. We don't have any money."
Post leaders have said a smoking ban would cause the hall to shut down because patrons of the bar——will flee to in Maplewood or the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Richmond Heights, two locations where smoking is still allowed.
He told the aldermen that the post is already suffering after going smoke-free on January 1. The organization could last only a month longer in its current financial situation, he said.
The post has been approached by city officials in Rock Hill about moving the membership to a location in that city on Manchester Road, Lang said. He expects the post to move to that location or disband entirely, but said the membership has to vote on what it prefers to do.
Leahy said he'll consider bringing the bill up for a vote again when every alderman is in attendance.